Let's Make Love. Scandalous title? I suppose people had sex in the 1950s/1960s, but do they have to rub it in our face like this?
A billionaire who has everything in the world he could ever want, Jean-Marc Clement (Yves Montand) is internationally known as quite the ladies man. He's approached by one of his PR men, Alexander Coffman (Tony Randall), with news of an off-Broadway play that's going to poke some serious fun at him. Jean-Marc wants to go check out a rehearsal, see what it's all about, but there's a hiccup. Arriving at rehearsal, two things happen. First, he is immediately struck by Amanda (Marilyn Monroe), one of the actresses, and second, he's mistaken for an impressionist of....himself. He's hired and in hopes of getting the girl, goes along with the plan to play himself. And let the hijinks and shenanigans begin!
Far more for the cast aspect than the musical, I dove headfirst into this George Cukor-directed quasi-musical. The potential early-on was certainly there, but over the course of a 119-minute movie that potential never actually left the landing pad. It has a somewhat checkered past as everyone from Gregory Peck to Yul Bynner turned down the part (find the full list HERE at Wikipedia), an uncredited Arthur Miller revised the script to give more screentime to Mrs. Arthur Miller -- Marilyn for those keeping track at home -- and oh, by the way, Monroe and Montand had on-set affair. Awkward much?
My revised stance on musicals is that if there is a worthwhile cast I should at least give it a try. Of the three names listed above though, Monroe is the only one who ends up being even remotely memorable. She sings, she dances, and once again shows that she is not just eye candy. Side note: She looks beautiful. End of side note. Monroe could act too, and not just a ditzy blonde. Montand is a little stiff for the part, and while I've liked him in everything else I've seen him in, he just isn't very likable here. Chemistry off-screen with Monroe maybe, but on-screen, I never bought their possibly budding relationship. As for Randall, it's just not his fault. He provides some laughs early on, but the script basically has his character written out in the second half. He sits and watches other people act/dance/sing. Literally. He sits there off stage and has to smile. What a waste of a very funny comedic actor.
So that potential I was talking about, huh? I thought I'd stumbled upon a hidden gem early on. The opening montage, a history of the rich but always ill-fated Clement family, is hysterical in its dark humor. Montand's face is super-imposed on images throughout the Clement history, a succession of his ancestors earning their millions and dying in some tragically funny way. The laughs sort of dry up after that opening three minutes. That's a good sign of a movie if there ever was. Also look for three cameos that make the draggy middle portions almost watchable. As Jean-Marc tries to impress Monroe's Amanda, he hires coaches in the form of Milton Berle (comedy), Bing Crosby (singing) and Gene Kelly (dancing). Playing themselves, the trio provides some much needed laughs.
Mostly though, things never click. Clocking in at just under two hours, this is a painfully slow movie. There are eight different musical numbers that aren't that bad in themselves, but when they slow up an already slow-moving story, we're in for a long ride. I'll recommend it for Monroe, Randall and the cameos -- too short though they are -- but I was bored almost from the start with this one, and it never gets better.
Let's Make Love <---trailer (1960): **/****